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Communications of the ACM


Life Beyond Distributed Transactions

Life Beyond Distributed Transactions, illustration

Credit: Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christensen

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Transactions are amazingly powerful mechanisms, and I've spent the majority of my almost 40-year career working on them. In 1982, I first worked to provide transactions on the Tandem NonStop System. This system had a mean time between failures measured in years4 and included a geographically distributed two-phase commit offering excellent availability for strongly consistent transactions.

New innovations, including Google's Spanner,2 offer strongly consistent transactional environments at extremely large scale with excellent availability. Building distributed transactions to support highly available applications is a great challenge that has inspired excellent innovation and amazing technology. Unfortunately, this is not broadly available to application developers.


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